It’s always funny to me how the school system decides it’s “Fair Day”, but they take no one to the fair. It’s really just an extra day off school that clearly should be spent by mamas and kids frolicking happily at the fair, snapping photos to post to Instagram.
I don’t know about you, but at my house, it was still a Monday and the grownups around here work on Mondays.
I love that I get to work from home and be physically present with my kids. At the same time, running a business at this stage in the game means that I actually have to “do work” to keep the thing going. That inevitably means I felt guilty about not frolicking at said “fair”. I have every intention of beng a great mom on all the days, but that some days, I’m just doing the best I can. That negative voice of shame in my head can be especially loud on extra days home from school.
What about you?
While “everyone else” was taking their kids to the fair, did you have to work, pay bills, care for an aging parent, or anything else that doesn’t involve a trip to the fair? Did it remind you that you’re not the mom you want to be?
That’s actually a good sign.
I love it when I hear Shasta Nelson (international friendship guru) say that the feeling of loneliness isn’t a bad thing. It’s our body doing its job, by letting us know something is off balance. We should notice it and then do something about it by connecting with friends.
I think this same idea holds especially true with “Mom Guilt”.
Guilt can be a useful emotion. In a study that analyzes years of guilt research, psychologist Roy F. Baumeister found, “The single biggest cause of guilt people have is not spending enough time with their families or their loved ones.” Not a big surprise.
Mom guilt is there at every stage.
It’s a reminder that you’re forever on the hook and responsible for another human. I saw a meme called Mom Guilt Bingo and laughed so hard at all the possible spaces. It was full of things like:
- Pizza for dinner
- Failed to cherish every moment
- Non-organic produce purchase
- Hiding in the bathroom
- Wine or sushi after conception
- Failed to cherish every moment today
- Incomplete baby book
- Didn’t visit them for lunch at school
- Yoga pants and bed head at pick up
- Forgot class picture day
- Hoped the all guessing passed for parenting
It simultaneously made me want to laugh and cry.
All that “mom guilt” can be useful, but you have to decide what to do with it. You can’t let it run rampant in the form of self-shaming in your mind. Simply notice it, and let it be a reminder that you’re feeling guilty because you’re a good mother, who cares deeply for her children. Even when you’re tired, even when you’re stressed. Especially when you’re not acting like the pristine ideal of the mother you want to be. The ones who care the most, feel the most guilt.
The feeling of guilt has no power to shame you.
Let it serve its purpose to remind you to check your priorities, talk about it out loud, and then let it move along. That means you have the power to pass on a beautiful gift to your children. You can show them what it looks like to notice and process the feeling of guilt.
It’s a natural human emotion, they’re going to feel it too, you know.
Show them it’s okay. Teach them it has only as much power as you give it. Give them the words they will need for a healthy expression of guilt by using them yourself. Feeling guilty isn’t a bad thing. Keeping it inside and beating yourself up with the shame of it sure is though. Shame is a lie that will keep you hiding and isolated.
For me, the conversation on the way to school might sound something like this:
“Mom woke up feeling guilty about not taking you to the fair yesterday, for sitting at my desk too long, for the family eating random leftovers for dinner . . . I feel that feeling so strongly. I recognize that feeling very well because I care so deeply about you. I want you to know I think about you a lot while I’m working, especially if you’re here with me. I want more time with you. I’m doing the best I can to make choices to get more time with you every chance I get. Do you know that? What was today like for you?”
It will open up a dialogue that reveals how much you love them.
No matter their experience of the day, that conversation is what they’ll remember. Sure, they’ll remember the fun you had frolicking at the fair some years. Those memories are amazing and so good. But on the days when they feel guilty for not being the parent, spouse, or friend they want to be, they will remember what you taught them with your words and actions.
They’ll remember that shame isn’t the boss of them.
Now you tell me, is that not the mom you want to be?
to more love,